Local Sports

Road America on tap

History was made at Road America last year when the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competed for the only time on the same weekend at the same venue.

This weekend, another chapter will be written in the circuit’s annals, with the first visit for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, adding to the racing tradition that has been made in Wisconsin’s scenic Kettle Moraine region since 1950.

It’s getting down to crunch time for competitors battling for the title in the Prototype class. Only two races will remain for Prototype competitors following Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America.

Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi used their victory in the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to regain the points lead. The drivers of the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP hold a two-point lead (249-247) over brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, drivers of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP.

Watkins Glen winners Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook in the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com/GoPro Corvette DP are third with 238 points, followed by Canadian Tire Motorsport Park winner Gustavo Yacaman, 232 points in the No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan/Nissan he will co-drive at Road America with Olivier Pla.

Hanging on in contention with 225 points is Scott Pruett, whose up-and-down season included victories at Sebring and Long Beach and a second at Indianapolis, but three mid-season finishes of eighth or worse. He will be rejoined this weekend by Memo Rojas in the No. 01 Telcel Ford EcoBoost/Riley.

GT Le Mans Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona have three races remaining following this weekend, with the three classes competing in the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway on August 23-24.

Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen saw the four-race winning streak for their No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R ended at Indianapolis. They continue to lead the GTLM standings by 13 points (219-206) over Brickyard Grand Prix winners Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer in the No. 93 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R.

Early season leaders Bill Auberlen and Andy Priaulx are now third with 197 points in the No. 55 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE. They are followed by Dominic Farnbacher and Marc Goossens in the No. 91 TI Automotive Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R, 195 points, and Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R, 192 points.

Colin Braun and Jon Bennett won four races and have scored 200 points in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09. They hold a 44-point lead in the PC standings over Starworks Motorsport driver Mirco Schultis (200-156), with Starworks driver Renger van der Zande third with 153 points.

Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler continue to pace the GTD standings after opening the year with a class victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and second at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. The drivers of the No. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia have a nine-point lead (193-184) over Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil, drivers of the No. 22 Alex Job Racing WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT America.

Coming off a runner-up finish at Indianapolis, No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS drivers Bryce Miller and Christopher Haase are third with 183 points – two more than Andy Lally and John Potter (181), drivers of the No. 44 Magnus Racing FLEX-BOX Porsche 911 GT America.

All four TUDOR Championship classes will wrap up the inaugural 2014 season with the Lone Star Le Mans, Sept. 20 at Circuit of The Americas, and the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, Oct. 4 at Road Atlanta.

Road America’s history mirrors that of another historic circuit on the TUDOR Championship schedule, Watkins Glen International.

Cameron Argetsinger revived sports car racing in the United States when he staged the inaugural Watkins Glen Grand Prix on the streets of the upstate New York village in 1948.

Encouraged by the success of the Watkins Glen event, gentlemen racers Jim Kimberley and Fred Wacker urged fellow members of the Chicago Region of the Sports Car Club of America to stage their own event. They selected the scenic village of Elkhart Lake, which was struggling through an economic downturn. The first race was held on July 23, 1950, on a 3.35-mile circuit, drawing its competitors from the Chicago Region of the SCCA.

The event’s popularity grew with races in 1951 and 1952 on a 6.5-mile course that circumvented Elkhart Lake on County Roads J, A and P, drawing competitors from around the nation. The 1952 weekend attracted an estimated 100,000 fans. John Fitch won the feature race in a Cunningham CR2, with one of the support races won by young Californian Phil Hill, a future Formula One World Champion.

A spectator fatality in downtown Watkins Glen in 1952 ended the feasibility of competition on public roads. That led to the building of purpose-built road racing circuits, and Road America was one of the leaders.

Clif Tufte, a highway engineer from Elkhart Lake, had a vision similar to Argetsinger. He organized a group of influential citizens and leaders of the Chicago Region to build a permanent circuit on 525 acres of Wisconsin farmland not far from Elkhart Lake’s original layout. Tufte’s track incorporated the natural topography of the Kettle Moraine, with rolling hills and plunging ravines. Remarkably, Tufte’s 4.048-mile layout has been basically unchanged since the circuit’s opening.